A RESIDENT of a block of Mornington flats has failed in a last-minute legal bid to save a liquid amber tree and is now facing an almost $200 bill for disrupting workmen.
The tree in Downward Street is the centrepiece of a common courtyard on the block of four units but had become the centre of a disagreement between the owners’ corporation and tenants who did not want it chopped down.
On Thursday, the day the tree was originally due to be removed, tree loppers were forced to walk away after several residents parked their cars around the tree to protect it.
The owners’ corporation had received Mornington Peninsula Shire Council approval to remove the tree after its roots continued to raise some of the surrounding concrete.
But when tenant Samantha Grant heard of the plan, she rallied other neighbours and applied to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a stay of works under section 89 of the Environment Act.
Grant also hired an arborist who told the tribunal the tree’s roots were established and no longer spreading and could remain in place while the concrete was repaired.
That matter was heard late on Thursday, with the tribunal ruling the tree posed a health and safety risk and could be removed.
It also found that while the tenants wanted to keep the tree, the owners’ corporation – which has an obligation to act for unit owners to maintain common property – wanted it removed.
Grant said she was devastated, as the tree had provided shade, a play area for tenants’ children and a home for wildlife.
“I admire the tree every day – tenants wanted to keep the tree and we even had our own arborist attending, but we are just tenants and so it didn’t matter,” she said.
“I am truly heartbroken, I cried all evening, coming to terms with its removal is hard.”
The single mother of three said to make matters worse she was now facing a compensation bill of $176 for holding off the tree loppers on Thursday.
“If I petition and hold works off what will happen, I get fined and fined until I get arrested,” she said.
“I just think it’s unnecessary to cut down a perfectly healthy tree that gives us so much joy when there are other options.”
Spokesman for the owners’ corporation administration, Richard Reed, said all unit owners were contacted over the tree’s removal. He said all legal processes were followed.
The shire’s planning services team leader David McPherson said removing the tree was “not contrary” to the planning scheme and a condition of the permit required it to be replaced by a native canopy tree.